Your #1 Ally for Growing in your Engineering Career

AuditBoard Engineering
4 min readFeb 1, 2022

Author: Andrew Tran, Sr. Engineering Manager

Spoiler: It’s your Manager.

A far too common perspective is that a manager is someone you should fear, someone who you don’t want to slip up in front of. After all, they could write you a bad performance review, or assign you to mundane and uninteresting tasks. But at organizations that prioritize good management, the opposite is true.

The Duty of a Manager

A manager’s job is to elevate their team — to position them for success, help them build a strategy for growth, and support them along their journey. A manager should not focus on what has been done wrong, but instead on what could happen right. The emphasis on identifying the most meaningful opportunities, especially as they align with the goals of the individual, is a key component of a successful manager.

One of the challenges of a manager is to balance the needs of the business with the needs of their team. These can seem like competing ideas at first, but for a manager with strong tact and empathy, these two things can align. Often, the fault of a manager is a bias towards the business needs leading to neglect of the team needs. But by identifying and understanding the strengths, motives, and goals of their team, and then seeking out the projects that cater to those, the manager has potential to drive their team’s engagement and satisfaction up while continuing to deliver value for the business.

Your Manager is Your Ally

Success isn’t universal — every individual has their own nuanced set of experiences and impressions that have led them to where they are now. Every story will be different, and, as such, so will everyone’s definition of success. However, regardless of all the variables there are for managers; team, team size, scope of responsibility, culture, etc — Every manager has significant capacity to drive their team towards personal success and growth.

So the question is, “How can I help my manager help me?”. The first step is going to be identifying the specific areas in which you want to grow. Spend serious time thinking about these questions:

“Who do I want to be as good as, and in what areas?”
“What’s one skill/domain I want to be better at a few months from now?”
“How could my role change in a few years, in a way that excites me?”

Some managers may be more or less proactive in this area, but it doesn’t hurt to get the ball rolling. When you have a solid idea of the direction you want to grow, you should absolutely share this information with your manager. The more specificity you can offer, the better!

Communicate to Build Alignment

You probably have 1:1s on a regular basis with your manager. If you don’t, you should start now. This is an excellent opportunity to begin the conversations that matter to you. Modern management is a two-way street. Your manager will inevitably have conversations with you about how you fit into the team’s needs, but you also need to drive the conversations about how the team can fit into your needs.

Of course, communicating your goals and ambitions is not straight forward and will likely happen over a series of conversations. But once it’s out there and you’ve established your goals, what you want to improve at, or how you want to grow, you and your manager are now part of a team effort to make it a reality. You can now expect support from your manager when you hit blocks in progress towards your personal goals. You can have your manager hold you accountable to your journey of personal growth. If you can’t see any upcoming opportunities that are goal-aligned, you can leverage your manager’s additional visibility to seek them out.

Ultimately, once you and your manager are aligned in terms of your ambitions, it would be in any manager’s best interest to go up to bat for you. As a manager, I would infinitely prefer to have each of my team members working on projects that are valuable to the business AND to their personal growth and aspirations. This level of cohesion and alignment is always attainable, but requires the preliminary work of openly communicating your individual ambitions.

Summary

A strong relationship with your manager is the best asset you could have to drive your personal career growth. The step of utmost importance is identifying and communicating your goals and aspirations. From there, you can begin to rely on your manager to hold you accountable for not just business deliverables, but for personal growth & development, too. You have someone with organization-wide visibility to scope out opportunities that align with your goals. You have someone to help you course-correct when you feel off-track, and someone to help you develop your strategy for leveling up. Your manager is your ally and if you work with them, they’ll work for you.

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AuditBoard Engineering

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